I arrived at Ricoh Coliseum for Friday’s game expecting to leave around 10:00PM. When the clock hit 11:30, and the game was still underway, I knew I was seeing something I may never see in person at a hockey game again: a third overtime period.
The Marlies vs. Devils game was tied 1-1 after regulation. Even after another 40 minutes of overtime play the match was still not settled. It was quite the game, but the good news is that the Marlies came out on top, winning 2-1 on an third OT goal by Justin Holl, allowing them to advance to the second round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.
The bulk of the game can be summarized with one stat - the Marlies had 60 shots-on-goal to the Devils 31. Mackenzie Blackwood (of WJC fame/infamy) was in net for the Devils, and he stopped all but two of those, one, obviously, the 3OT winning goal. Kasimir Kaskisuo was in net for the Marlies, stopping 30 of 31.
The Marlies clearly won the possession battle through regulation, often looking like they were on a power-play when it was really 5 vs. 5. Travis Dermott opened up the scoring in the first period with his first goal of the playoffs.
I could fill in some of the game notes I recorded here, but, I am not sure there is a point. They are all pretty much the same: Andreas Johnsson picks up a turnover at center ice and has a scoring chance stopped by Blackwood; Kapanen breakaway stopped by Blackwood; Nielsen shot from the point stopped by Blackwood.
You get the idea.
Blackwood was a machine, and there seemed to be nothing that could be done to get a puck past him.
Make no mistake, Kaskisuo was fantastic too, though he had only about half the workload as the Devils defenders had a lot of difficulty clearing out the puck from their zone on Marlies attacks.
As the game wore on, the strategy for both teams reverted to simple dump and chase. The Marlies appeared to favour this as their go to attack because they had a speed edge on the Devils’ defence. Many times they could often get down behind the net and retrieve the puck, or at least battle for it, before the Devils defenders, like ex-Marlie Viktor Loov, could respond and position themselves there too.
One reason for the low scoring tally was the lack of special teams play. The refs swallowed their whistles for this game. There were two penalties called in all of regulation play, both in the first period. No penalties were called in the second; no penalties were called in the third.
The fans sure thought there deserved to be some calls. At the end of the first period, Devils’ defenceman Seth Helgeson had an altercation with Brendan Leipsic beside the player’s bench during line changes. Helgeson is listed as 6’4, 215 pounds; Leipsic is listed as 5’9, 181 pounds. Helgeson knocked Leipsic over with a shove. He got up and then Helgeson did it again. No call. A “Refs you suck!” chant took over the arena for a minute afterwards.
A Third Overtime?
Overtime hockey seems to be de rigeur this season, but we didn’t know what we were in for when they set foot on the ice for the start of the first overtime period.
The Devils had a gift of an opportunity to end the game when Rinat Valiev was sent to the box on a double-minor for high-sticking, the first penalty called since the first period. The Marlies killed it off well and the game was back to a neutral-zone stalemate.
“It won’t happen. Someone will score.”
That was the consensus in the press box as the clock ticked past the half way point of the second overtime. The Marlies made a valiant attempt toward the end of 2OT to make that happen. They had an offensive zone faceoff with 1:00 left on the clock and got off a series of shot attempts, but Blackwood was again the wall.
When 2OT ended, and we realised we were going to a third overtime, it was a rather surreal feeling.
With the game surpassing 2:21 of the third OT, this is now the longest game in Marlies history. Remember where you were, I know I will.— David Alter (@dalter) April 29, 2017
The players were clearly exhausted. There were turnovers galore in the neutral zone. I recall one sequence where the Marlies turned it over to the Devils, who turned it back over to the Marlies, who turned it back to the Devils... all in the span of 10 seconds.
Simple low speed passes were being flubbed. Even the officials were showing fatigue. At one point when a face-off resulted in a puck deflected over the glass, the referee dropped to one knee and gave the universal ‘I need a minute’ signal.
Finally, 6:43 into the third overtime, defenceman Justin Holl found the puck on his stick and decided to just take a shot and see if it could go in.
The game was finally over, 4 hours and 39 minutes after it started.
Sure, you can say Blackwood may have stopped that if it was the first period, and maybe he was screened a bit, but it was still a good play and good judgement call by Holl to take that shot rather than pass again. Blackwood received a well deserved standing ovation from Marlies fans still in attendance when he was announced as the second star of the game.
Marlies Coach Sheldon Keefe noted it as a unique experience that will help the team bond as they face the long playoff road ahead. “It’s one of those great playoff games that you’ll remember, and will stay with you.”
He explained how grueling it was for the players with a dramatic example “These type of games, guys are sore, guys are tired, guys are cramping up. They’re getting IV’s in between periods.”
Unfortunately, there was some bad news from the game. Kasperi Kapanen took an elbow to the head and was removed from the game, not returning.
Kapanen was going solo with the puck against Blackwood with a Devil’s defender in hot pursuit. It was difficult to see what happened from my angle, though it looked likely to be accidental contact that grazed his head. No penalty was called and the game play continued, but, clearly something was wrong with Kapanen. He slowed down to a crawl, and looked dazed. He skated agonizingly slowly to the bench, sat down, and then appeared to put his head down between his legs. Within seconds the trainer ordered him out of the game, back to the locker room.
He did not return to the game. No update on his status was made available post-game. I would expect a second evaluation to be done today. Knowing Keefe, if he is OK, we will here about it soon, if not, little to no details will be released.
The Marlies will face the Syracuse Crunch in the next round. The Crunch are the Lightning’s affiliate, and they defeated the St. John’s IceCaps last night to cement their move on to the next round. One thing to note is that last night was the final IceCaps AHL game ever. The team will be moving to Laval next season, and will be renamed the Laval Rocket.
The Marlies/Crunch series will begin in Syracuse. The schedule is as follows:
Marlies Round 2 Schedule
|Fri., May 5||Marlies @ Crunch||7:00PM|
|Sat., May 6||Marlies @ Crunch||7:00PM|
|Tue., May 9||Crunch @ Marlies||7:00PM|
|Wed., May 10||Crunch @ Marlies||7:00PM|
|Sat., May 13||Marlies @ Crunch||7:00PM|
|Mon., May 15||Crunch @ Marlies||7:00PM|
|Wed., May 17||Marlies @ Crunch||7:00PM|